The quiet rise of captain Aaron Finch to upper echelon of ODI batsmanship behind Australia’s revival
When Aaron Finch was handed over the captaincy of the Australian ODI team in 2018, the team was going through a tough period. With Steve Smith and David Warner banned for a year due to their role in the ball tampering controversy in South Africa, the team had lost two of its premier batsmen.
Australia were the reigning ODI champions of the world but they endured a torrid period as the team tried to cope with the absences of the heavyweights. But even when Smith was around, Australia did not have the dominance and all-conquering aura which the previous sides enjoyed under the reigns of Steve Waugh, Ricky Ponting and to some extent Michael Clarke.
It shows in Smith’s ODI captaincy record, as he managed to win just 52 percent of the 51 matches he led the team in. Although Australia were expected to have Warner and Smith back for the ODI World Cup in 2019, the team needed some spark and momentum in the lead up to the big tournament.
That spark was provided by their new captain Aaron Finch. The opening batsman had been around in international cricket for a while, but he was never considered anywhere close to the elite list of international batsmen.
By the time India registered their first ever bilateral series win on Australian soil in January 2019, the five-time World Cup winners had lost six ODI series on the trot along with an early exit from the 2017 ICC Champions Trophy.
As Australia tried to recover from a poor string of results, brick by brick Finch started creating his own legacy. He led Australia to a come from behind victory in India and then blanked the Pakistanis before leading the team to the semi-finals of the 2019 ICC World Cup, where they were beaten by eventual champions England.
His side lost to India in India earlier this year, before being whitewashed in South Africa. But they managed to beat World Cup runners-up New Zealand before the Covid-19 enforced lockdown and then beat world champions England in their own den before coming home and beating India in two back-to-back matches to win the ODI series.
This turnaround was made possible as much by Finch the captain and his bunch as by Finch the batsman.
The Australian captain is in fact the second highest run getter in ODIs since 2019, only 6 runs shy of leader Virat Kohli, which might come as a huge surprise for a lot of people. While the world was fixated on the return of Warner and Smith, Finch kept getting the runs for his team.
He has scored 1739 runs in 35 matches so far since the beginning of 2019, with 6 centuries and 10 half centuries to his name. Only Rohit Sharma has scored more centuries in ODIs during this period.
Not just this, 2019 was also the first time when Finch crossed the thousand-run mark in a calendar year in ODI cricket, and he is all set to end 2020 with his highest batting average in the format in a given year.
Finch’s consistency at the top of the order has been a huge reason behind Australia’s revival along with the performances of Smith, Warner and the bowlers. Add to this the fact that in 2020 Finch has had the best strike rate in the first 10 overs of a match since 2016 and you know the Australian limited overs captain is firing on all cylinders.
He might not be the most talented batsman of his generation, but Aaron Finch has definitely made his mark in international cricket and just like Tim Paine, he will be remembered as an Australian great who handled the reins of the team at a difficult time and triggered a turnaround.
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